October 14, 2009 / Star Tribune

A treaty called the Hague Adoption Convention aims to clean up abuses in international adoptions. It has been signed by more than 75 countries.

History: The 1993 treaty took effect in the United States on April 1, 2008. China and Guatemala, two countries where Americans have adopted the most, are now implementing the treaty.

What it does: U.S. adoption agencies must meet new standards and undergo an extensive review called accreditation if they wish to place children from countries that signed the treaty. If things go badly with an adoption, individuals may file online complaints with the U.S. State Department, which has assigned the task of investigating alleged wrongdoing to the same nonprofit organization that handles accreditations. Both the government and the nonprofit organization can penalize agencies that break the rules.

Accredited agencies must:

Disclose fees and services

Keep cash reserves, insurance

Act ethically; prevent abduction, sale or trafficking of children

Give 10 hours of training to prospective adoptive parents

Use trained employees

What it doesn't do: The government did not mandate that all U.S. adoption agencies obtain accreditation to continue operating in foreign countries. Agencies that aren't accredited are only barred from running adoption programs in the countries that signed the treaty. Hague rules don't prevent these agencies from working elsewhere, including 17 nations where Americans have adopted children in the past decade. They include South Korea, Ethiopia and Haiti. Altogether, more than 100 countries have not signed the treaty, but most of them have never sent children to the United States.


Some numbers

Altogether, more than 100 countries have not signed the treaty, but most of them have never sent children to the United States.

This statement gives the impression that not many of the children adopted internationally come from non-Hague countries, while the oposite is true. Despite the fact the United States adopted children from 88 countries in 2008, the number of large sending countries is relatively small. In total there were only 17 countries in 2008 that had children placed in the US. Of these 17 countries only five had actually ratified the Hague convention.

The following table shows the number of children adopted from these 17 countries that exported more than 100 children in 2008:

Country Hague Non-Hague
Guatemala *   4122
China 3911  
Russian Federation   1857
Ethiopia   1724
South Korea   1065
Vietnam   748
Ukraine   490
Kazakhstan   380
India 308  
Colombia 306  
Haiti   301
Phillipines 292  
Taiwan   266
Liberia   254
Nigeria   149
Mexico 105  
Ghana   101
Total 4922 11457

The totals make very clear that more than twice as many children were adopted from non-Hague countries than from Hague countries, so the impact of the convention remains to be seen.

* Guatemala's entered the Hague in 2003, but has so far not ratified it.

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